2016 sees Internet Explorer usage crash and Chrome increase

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At the start of 2016, Microsoft’s Internet Explorer was still the most widely used browser on the Web; it ended 2015 being used by around 46% of web users, with 32% preferring Chrome and 12% using Firefox. But Explorer’s days are numbered since Microsoft essentially ended its development. While the venerable browser is still supported and still receives security updates, its features and standard support have been frozen since 2015. Instead, Microsoft has moved active development to Edge, its new browser. . While Edge is faster, more secure, and offers much better support for web standards, it’s only available for Windows 10, which significantly limits its audience.

(All figures are taken from net market share, unless otherwise noted.)

The landscape was very different at the end of 2016. Chrome climbed to 56% of the market, while Internet Explorer fell to just under 21%. Edge isn’t completely ignored by web users – it started the year at 2.8% and finished at 5.3% – but it appears to be underperforming its predecessor. At the start of 2016, Windows 10 was used by 10% of Internet users. At the end of 2016, that number reached 24%, a solid performance for a new Microsoft operating system, no doubt supported by the free upgrade offer for Windows 7 and Windows 8 users. Among gamers, Edge is Better performer: According to the Steam Hardware Survey, Windows 10 just passed 50% of Steam users by the end of the year. This growth has come at the expense of older versions of Windows; Windows 7 fell from 56% to 48%, Windows XP from 11% to 9%, and Windows 8.1 from 10% to 7%.

These numbers mean that only 22% of Windows 10 users opt for Edge. Assuming that Internet Explorer users primarily use older versions of Windows (technically, Windows 10 users can also use Internet Explorer, although this is strongly discouraged and likely to be rare), 32% of older users to Windows 10 stick to Internet Explorer. This suggests that either Windows 10 users don’t see Edge as a suitable replacement for Internet Explorer, or early adopters are less interested in the operating system’s default browser.

Edge, for its part, took a big step forward in 2016: Windows 10’s anniversary update added extension support which makes Microsoft’s browser widely compatible with the HTML and JavaScript extensions supported by Chrome and Firefox. Still, Microsoft’s browser still looks rudimentary, and its competitors are still better at handling tabs and passwords. And, in my own experience, Edge suffers from some strange stability issues.

Firefox ended the year at about the same place it started, with a hair of over 12%. This is a stronger performance than it looks, because in August, the browser market share had fallen below 8%. In the last four months of the year, all of these losses were made up. After many years of development, Firefox is finally starting to get the kinds of security and stability features that other browsers have enjoyed for a decade. Specifically, the browser now runs its rendering engine in a separate process, which means that a crashed web page does not shut down the entire browser. Firefox still has a ways to go before it truly rivals Chrome, Edge, and Safari – it can’t yet create multiple renderer processes, so if a tab crashes it all need to be recharged, but that goal is now in sight.

The situation for another venerable browser seems less fortunate. Opera’s market share throughout the year hovered at just over 1%. Opera Software, the company that developed the browser, functionally split in November. Half of the company, Opera ASA, remains a Norwegian listed company; it manages advertising operations, application and game development, the Opera TV showcase and application platform, the Skyfire video optimization and monetization service and the SurfEasy VPN service. The other half, Opera AS, is developing the browser of the same name, and that company was sold to a Chinese consortium for around $ 600 million. This sale saw the Opera brand and logo pass into Chinese hands.

Immediately after the sale closed, the new owners laid off 85 employees, leaving the company with fewer than 400 employees. Even more resigned after the change of ownership. The browser faces significant pressure on revenue, its traditional revenue streams – bundling agreements with telecom operators and licensing its browser technology for various integrated platforms – drying up, leaving it funded solely by its users. . With such a low market share, it is a delicate position.

In the opinion of many longtime Opera fans, Opera hasn’t been the browser they know and love since 2013, when the browser ditched its own rendering engine and started using Blink, the derivative engine. of WebKit that Google uses in Chrome. This change was accompanied by a reduction in configurability and customization that made a certain type of Internet user love the browser. A new browser created by former Opera employees is working to fill this gap. Vivaldi saw its version 1 release in 2016, and although it is also built using Blink, its entire interface is built using JavaScript, HTML, Node.js and related technologies. This makes the interface much easier to modify.

Now in version 1.7, Vivaldi is aimed at “power users” who want something that can be tailored to their specific needs. Still, the browser has yet to make a dent in the market share figures.

A second new player from another longtime participant in the browser space also went public in 2016. The Brave browser was started by Brendan Eich, Mozilla co-founder and inventor of JavaScript. New to Brave is not the advanced user personalization, but rather the built-in ad blocking combined with a micropayment system. Brave replaces advertisements on ad-supported sites with its own advertising. The revenue from this advertising is distributed among the sites whose ads are blocked, Brave, the ad networks and Brave users. Users can use these bribes to donate to publishers of their choice. They can also make contributions directly through the browser.

Again, Brave didn’t attract a lot of uses. A year ago, Eich said he needs to reach around 7 million users to prove his model works. As with Vivaldi, Brave has yet to make an appearance in the market share figures.

In 2017, Edge will continue to acquire features and become a more comprehensive option, while Firefox will complete its multi-process implementation to give it much needed parity. Still, it’s hard to see how either browser is going to make inroads into Chrome’s share. Chrome currently offers the best combination of features, security, and reliability. Combined with the ongoing promotional power of Google (visit Google.com in other browsers and you’ll always be asked if you want to try Chrome), it’s a challenge for others to gain new users. And the continued migration to Windows 10 will only accelerate the decline of Internet Explorer.


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